Return flight: Aviation training comes back to Texoma

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Officials with North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field has signed a lease agreement with a new flight school that hopes to start its first class of students at the airport in December

For the first time in over a year, flight training will soon return to North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field. Officials with the airport recently confirmed that a new flight school has been recruited to come to NTRA, with new students expected to arrive by year's end.

NTRA Airport Director Mike Livezey said Addison-based Thrust Flight has signed a lease agreement for a building at the airport that will serve as the hub for its flight school operations.

The news comes nearly 18 months after long-term tenant US Aviation announced that it would be consolidating its flight training operations to its facilities in Denton, bringing an end to its fight training in Texoma. The move by US Aviation came amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a drop in Chinese trainees, which made up a large portion of the company's business at the time.

"As they build this facility, and they have about 100 to 120 students here, this will be very comparable to what US Aviation was doing," Livezey said, describing Thrust Flight.

The search for a new flight school operator started a few months after US Aviation ceased operations at NTRA. Livezey said he approached several operators regarding possible expansion to NTRA. Among those companies was Thrust Flight.

"We continued to communicate and we signed a lease for them to come here in late August," Livezey said.

The company currently has about 170 students, with about 60 percent of them from outside North Texas, Livezey said. The NTRA flight school would focus on those students who are travelling to the region to study, with most expected to be in Sherman-Denison for about a year.

Thrust Flight was started nearly a decade ago as an aircraft importer, who often trained with the types of aircraft they worked with, Operations Director Hunter Gravley said. Over time, the company began to organically transition toward a focus on the training side of business.

Since 2017, the company has focused on what Gravley described as its "Zero Time to Airline" program.

"It is a career program that brings our students from zero experience to being qualified for jobs with the airlines," Gravley said. "That has been our bread and butter for three years."

Gravley, who is from Grayson County, said he has always had his eyes on Texoma, and specifically NTRA. Recently, he noticed the airport had vacancies and growth was headed north toward Sherman-Denison and felt it might be a good fit for the school

"If you look at any airports in the Metroplex, it isn't the same hospitality that you get when you move away from Dallas," he said.

NTRA also offers a less congested airspace, which can allow for some training operations that wouldn't be available elsewhere in the Dallas- Fort Worth Metroplex, Gravley said.

"Any time they have to train, those guys are having to go to other airports to do touch and goes or approaches because Addison doesn't allow touch and goes between the hours of about nine to five," Livezey said.

For NTRA, the new flight school could bring in additional revenues through increased fuel sales. However, one of the bigger benefits could be the increased recognition for the airport as word of the training spreads.

The flight school started some light training at NTRA in early October with some of its students from Addison. However, the first class of students for NTRA proper are expected to arrive some time in October.